Ferrari Trento DOC (Italy) Brut NV (Palm Bay International, $24): When I agreed to meet Marcello Lunelli, chief winemaker of the family-owned Ferrari wine house, and taste through his sparkling wines, I had my eyes on the company’s prize wine, the $95 vintage-dated Giulio Ferrari Brut Reserve. Much to my surprise, the wine that captivated me was the basic, regular non-vintage (NV) Ferrari Brut. Don’t get me wrong: the 1999 Giulo Ferrari is fantastic, and I rate it higher than the NV Brut. But the Brut is so utterly enjoyable!
Ferrari is Italy’s largest and best-known classic-method sparkling wine house, making 25 percent of Italy’s entire annual production of bottle-fermented bubbly. Giulio Ferrari founded the company in 1902 and, influenced by experience in France, he pioneered the planting of Chardonnay in the Trento area. In 1952, he passed ownership of the company to the Lunelli family.
Ferrari NV Brut is entirely Chardonnay, although until 2000, the wine had contained about five percent Pinot Noir. A particularity of the climate in which the grapes grow is the day-night temperature variation: Lunelli remarked that August temps can reach about 93°F during the day and yet drop to 54°F at night. At harvest the grapes have acidities as high as or higher than those in the Champagne region, and even after the base wines undergo malolactic fermentation the bubblies show real depth, thanks to that high acidity.
What strikes me about the NV Ferrari Brut is its great balance. The wine is quite dry, with only 7 grams residual sugar, and the balance of acid to alcohol (12.5 percent) to sweetness is perfect. The wine also has great balance in the relationship of structure to flavor: this is a sparkling wine that is as much about its flavor as it is about texture and bubbles.
The wine’s medium intense aroma is broad rather than penetrating and suggests ripe apples, a slight note of peachiness and a hint of butterscotch. In the mouth the wine is dry -- dryer than most NV Brut Champagnes -- with a very delicate, well-integrated mousse, some creaminess of texture, and lots of fruity flavor. The wine’s length across the palate is complete and the finish is long and fruity. I rarely describe sparkling wines as “round” in the mouth because usually the bubbles create an impression of verticality that runs counter to roundness, but here I am inclined to use that descriptor.
Like all Ferrari wines, this is a DOC-level, classic method bubbly, made via a second fermentation in the bottle. DOC regulations for Trento sparkling wines require aging for at least 15 months on the lees of the second fermentation, but Ferrari’s NV Brut remains on the lees at least two years before disgorging. Each bottle states the year that the wine was disgorged (sboccatura) on the back label, which is a great aid for buyers in understanding the age of the non-vintage wine.
Positioning his wine among Italy’s other classic-method sparkling wines, where the bubblies of the Franciacorta region earn high accolades, Mr. Lunelli remarked, “Franciacorta has more body; we have more drinkability.” Indeed.